Mitt Romney has given me gaffe fatigue. The other day he said, "I'm not familiar with precisely what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," and I couldn't even be bothered to stop what I was doing and make fun of him. All winter long the Massachusetts Motormouth entertained us with his admiration for the height of trees in Michigan and his love of firing people. When he offered Rick Perry a $10,000 bet and talked up his friendships with NASCAR team owners, he did more to define himself as the 1 percent than anything on his tax returns did. But lately the guy's a big snooze.
It's getting to the point where everyone has come to an understanding that nothing Mitt Romney says is meant to be taken seriously. Case in point: Romney's interview with Time's Mark Halperin. Halperin tossed him the mother of all softball questions, and Romney was barely able to foul it off. He asked, "... what specific skills or policies did you learn at Bain that would help you create an environment where jobs would be created?"
"Well that's a bit of a question like saying, what have you learned in life that would help you lead?" answered Romney. The lone specific skill he was able to come up with was "I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet," but that just makes him like QuickBooks, except he'd require more software updates.
Romney's inability to link his time at Bain Capital to any specific, significant attribute doesn't undercut his credentials because his message is a vague abstraction: "I understand how the economy works because I lived in it." And why is Obama a bad president? Because, says Romney, he's "someone who's never spent a day in the private sector," a statement that can't be proved false because it means absolutely nothing.
Romney's economic plan has 59 points, but a solution ain't one. Like Romney's real theory on how to fix the economy, his plan's title is an absurd abstraction: "Believe in America." When Halperin asked him how his plan would create jobs, Romney sounded like Dick Cheney did when he predicted flowers would be thrown at the feet of our soldiers as they marched into Bagdad. "You'd see a very dramatic change in the perspective of small businesses, entrepreneurs, middle-size businesses, and perhaps even some large multinationals," Romney told Halperin. "They'd say, 'You know what: America looks like a good place to invest again, a good place to take risk, a good place to hire again.'" See that? Not just change, but "very dramatic" change that will affect businesses of so many different sizes that he can barely list them all!
As Halperin discovered, Romney gets in trouble when you pull Romney's head out of the clouds and demand he get specific. It is a central Republican argument these days that federal spending is slowing the recovery. But when Halperin asked him why his four-year plan to reduce the deficit wasn't a one-year plan -- in effect, if spending is hurting us, why not stop the hurting sooner -- Romney admitted that federal spending is helping the economy.
"Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I'm not going to do that, of course," answered Romney.
Ha, ha! "Of course," he says. Halperin should know by now not to take Romney at his word. This is Romney we're talking about, who seems to get how ruinous his economic abstractions would be in real life. To paraphrase the philosopher Walter Sobchak, say what you will about the tenants of Keynesian economics, at least it's an ethos. The reason most Republicans say they're against it nowadays is because they think it refers to where Obama was born.
Romney's hopey-changy plan to create jobs explains how he can belong to a religion founded by a con artist who claimed Jesus visited America after his resurrection, though to be fair I'm not sure He isn't playing for the Jets these days. That's just a joke, folks. Not meant to be taken seriously. Kinda like every thing that comes out of Romney's mouth: blather, rinse, repeat.
Follow Jason Stanford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JasStanford